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Figat Apollinea pharetra,
Phineamque abigat pestem procul amne Pegaseo?
Quin tu, libelle, nuntii licet mala
Semel erraveris agmine fratrum,
Lætare felix: en iterum tibi
Nam te Rousius sui
Optat peculi, numeroque justo
Voluit reponi, quibus et ipse præsidet
temple at Delphi, are often poetically described in the lon. See particularly, v. 185. seq. v..1146. seq. Its images of gold are mentioned in the Phoenissæ, v. 228. The riches of the treasures of this celebrated shrine were proverbial even in the days of Homer, Il. b. ix. 404. All these
Quam cui præfuit lön, Clarus Erechtheides,
Opulenta dei per templa parentis,
Ergo, tu visere lucos
Musarum ibis amœnos;
Diamque Phœbi rursus ibis in domum,
Oxonia quam valle colit,
Postquam egregiam tu quoque sortem Nactus abis, dextri prece sollicitatus amici. Illic legeris inter alta nomina
were offerings, Arabnara, Dona Delphica, made by eminent personages who visited the temple. A curious Memoir has been written by Mons. Valois, De richesses du Temple des Delphes, et des differens pillages qui en ont elè faits.
Milton was a reader of Euripides, not only with the taste
a poet, but with the minuteness of a Greek critic. His Euripides in two volumes, Paul Stephens's quarto edition, 1602, with many marginal emendations in his own hand, is now the property of Mr. Cradock, of Gumly in Leicestershire. From the library of the learned Bishop Hare, who died in 1740, it passed into the shop of John Whiston the bookseller; whence it was purchased by Doctor Birch, the publisher of Milton's Prose Works, April 12, 1754. Birch
left his library to the British Museum. It has Milton's name, with the price of the book, viz. 12s. 6d. Also the date 1634, (the year in which Comus was written,) all in his own hand. Some of the marginal notes have been adopted by Joshua Barnes, in his Euripides. Others have been lately printed by Mr. Jodrell. Milton's daughter Deborah, who used to read to him, related, that he was most delighted with Homer, whom he could almost entirely repeat; and next, with Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides. See note on the Nativity, v. 180.
56. Quam cui præfuit Iön, &c.] Ion the treasurer of the Delphic temple, abounding in riches. Euripides's tragedy of Ion evidently occasioned this allusion. Euripides calls fon, XgureQuλaxa, v. 54.
Authorum, Graiæ simul et Latinæ
Vos tandem haud vacui mei labores,
Perfunctam invidia requiem, sedesque beatas,
Quas bonus Hermes,
Et tutela dabit solers Roüsi;
Quo neque lingua procax vulgi penetrabit, atque longe
Turba legentum prava facesset:
At ultimi nepotes,
Et cordatior ætas,
Judicia rebus æquiora forsitan
Tum, livore sepulto,
Si quid meremur sana posteritas sciet,
78. If he meant this verse for an hendecasyllable, there is a false quantity in solers. The first syllable is notoriously long.
78. See a long and learned criticism upon the measures of this Ode in note (r), Symmons's
Ode tribus constat Strophis, totidemque Antistrophis, una demum Epodo clausis, quas tametsi omnes nec versuum numero, nec certis ubique colis exacte respondeant, ita tamen secuimus, commode legendi potius, quam ad antiquos concinendi modos rationem spectantes. Alioquin hoc genus rectius fortasse dici monostrophicum debuerat. Metra partim sunt xarà σxέow, partim åπoλλvμéva. Phaleucia quæ sunt, Spondæum tertio loco bis admittunt, quod idem in secundo loco Catullus ad libitum fecit.
Life of Milton, p. 281-284. ed. 2d. E.
86. The reader will recollect, that this Ode was written and sent in 1646. Milton here alludes to the severe censures which he had lately suffered, not only from
the episcopal but even from the presbyterian party. About the year 1641, our author, well knowing how much the puritans wanted the assistance of abilities and learning, attacked the order of bishops and the intire constitution of the Church of England, in three or four large and laboured treatises. One of these, his Reply to Bishop Hall's Remonstrance, was answered the same year by an anonymous antagonist, supposed to be the bishop's son; who calls Milton a blasphemer, a drunkard, a profane swearer, and a frequenter of brothels, asserting at the same time, that he was expelled the University of Cambridge for a perpetual course of riot and debauchery. About the year 1644, Milton published his tracts on Divorce. Here he quarrelled with his own friends. These pieces were instantly anathematised by the thunder of the presbyterian clergy, from the pulpit, the press, and the tribunal of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. By the leaders of that persuasion, who were now predominant, and who began in their turn to find that novelties were dangerous, he was even summoned before the House of Lords. It is in reference to the rough and perhaps undeserved treatment which he received, in consequence of the publication of these dissertations in defence of domestic liberty, that he complains in his twelfth Sonnet.
I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient
Of owls and cuckóws, asses, apes,
repute, had he not been a "notorious traytor, &c." Lives of the Poets, p. 175. edit. 1687.
I mention these descriptions of Milton, among many others of a like kind which appeared soon after his death, because they probably contain the tone of the public opinion, and seem to represent the general and established estimation of his character at that time; and as they are here delivered dispassionately, and not thrown out in the heat of controversy and calumniation.
Upon the whole, and with
regard to his political writing at large, even after the prejudices of party have subsided, Milton, I believe, has found no great share of favour, of applause, or even of candour, from distant generations. His Si quid meremur, in the sense here belonging to the words, has been too fully ascertained by the mature determination of time. Toland, about thirty years after the Restoration, thought Milton's Prose Works of sufficient excellence and importance to be collected and printed in one body. But they were neglected and soon forgotten. Of late years, some attempts have been made to revive them, with as little success. At present, they are almost unknown. If they are ever inspected, it is perhaps occasionally by the commentator on Milton's verse as affording materials for comparative criticism, or from motives of curiosity only as the productions of the writer of Comus and Paradise Lost, and not so much for any independent value of their own. In point of doctrine, they are calculated to annihilate the very foundations of our civil and religious establishment, as it now subsists: they are subversive of our legislature, and our species of government. In condemning tyranny, he strikes at the bare existence of kings; in combating superstition, he decries all public religion. These discourses hold forth a system of politics, at present as unconstitutional, and almost as obsolete, as the nonsense of passive obedience: and in this view, we might just as well think of republishing the pernicious theories of the kingly bigot James, as
of the republican usurper Oliver Cromwell. Their style is perplexed, pedantic, poetical, and unnatural: abounding in enthusiastic effusions, which have been mistaken for eloquence and imagination. In the midst of the most solemn rhapsodies, which would have shone in a fast-sermon before Cromwell, he sometimes indulges a vein of jocularity; but his witticisms are as aukward as they are unsuitable, and Milton never more misunderstands the nature and bias of his genius, than when he affects to be arch either in prose or verse. His want of deference to superiors teaches him to write without good manners: and when we consider his familiar acquaintance with the elegancies of antiquity, with the orators and historians of Greece and Rome, few writers will be found to have made so slender a sacrifice to the Graces. From some of these strictures, I must except the Tractate on Education, and the Areopagitica, which are written with a tolerable degree of facility, simplicity, purity, and perspicuity; and the latter, some tedious historical digressions, and some little sophistry excepted, is the most close, conclusive comprehensive, and decisive vindication of the liberty of the press that has yet appeared, on a subject on which it is difficult to decide, between the licentiousness of scepticism and sedition, and the arbitrary exertions of authority. In the mean time, Milton's Prose Works, I suspect, were never popular : he deeply engaged in most of the ecclesiastical disputes of his times, yet he is seldom quoted or mentioned by his contempora